HAVE you ever thought of the risks facing children with special needs when it comes to road accidents on their way to or from school?
Children and young people aged between 5 and 29 years old are reported to be the main victims of road accidents globally, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). They are often involved in road accidents because they walk alone to and from school amidst careless drivers.
Therefore, Amend Organisation through Puma Energy Tanzania has decided to do something about it. Factors that cause accidents include driving under the influence of alcohol, recklessness, speeding and defective vehicles.
Children with special needs include those with visual impairment, children with hearing impairment, children with intellectual impairment and children with physical disabilities. Amend, a nongovernmental organisation, is in the frontline of addressing road safety challenges facing all children in the country, with more emphasis on those with special needs.
According to Amend Programme Manager Simon Kalolo, the organisation has been training children, teachers and members of the general public in keeping children safer when using public roads. Initiatives include infrastructural design and improvement of schools to suit schoolchildren’s safety while using public roads.
Similar projects are implemented in Dodoma, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. He said one of the initiatives was to push for setting up speed humps near schools, through the Tanzania Rural and Urban Roads Agency (Tarura). However, the proposed speed limit is still causing some challenges.
Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) advised the mandatory observation of a 50kph-speed limit in residential areas. But Amend wants it to be as low as 30kph near schools.
Nevertheless, the Traffic Police Unit has promised to work closely with road safety stakeholders to protect the lives of schoolchildren with special needs exposed to accidents on their way to or from school.
“We promise to promote safe use of public roads for schoolchildren with special needs when going to school or returning home from school. This will go together with raising the awareness of schoolchildren, motorists and other road users on the meaning and importance of adhering to traffic rules and road signs,” said Temeke Regional Traffic Officer (RTO) Victor Ayo.
Mr Ayo was speaking recently during the commissioning of the state-of-the-art pedestrian crossing signs at Temeke Wailesi Primary School to be used by schoolchildren, including those with special needs.
The RTO expressed his gratitude to Amend for mobilising the proper use of road signs, saying such an initiative, coupled with public education was of paramount importance in ending fatal road accidents and saving children with special needs who crossed roads on their way to and from school.
“Amend is working to end road accidents that involve schoolchildren. We are aware that this needs to include parents and members of the public in general,” he said, adding that incidents like the one which occurred two months ago, whereby two children from Wailesi Primary School were killed in a road accident needed concerted effort to minimise fatal road accidents.
Ms Maria Mapunda, one of the teachers at Wailesi Primary School appealed to road users to be careful when using roads near schools for the safety of children with special needs and of all road users. She stressed a need to abide by traffic rules and regulations and road signs were an important step in protecting the future workforce.
“A 15-year study in California indicated that the risk of adults with learning difficulties and disabilities being killed while walking was nearly three times greater than among adults without,” reads part of a report of a UK-based ‘Brake” charity organisation.
Mr John Seka, a lawyer and former President of TLS, said road accidents involving politicians could make road safety to be a political agenda for children with special needs and other members of the public. Mr John was astonished by the fact that none of the candidates vying for political posts had highlighted plans to curb fatal accidents if elected.
“Road crashes are affecting pedestrians, passengers and as you can see politicians, including those vying for high posts. Statistics show that about 2,000 Tanzanians die and others sustain injuries due to road accidents. This is the time for politicians to put road safety on their political agendas to halve road accidents by 2030,” he said.